Happy New Year! In hopes that 2021 will be far more promising than its predecessor, I thought it would be a great idea to start the year by ...

Sunbury, Pennsylvania Looks to Celebrate Former Resident, Lorenzo Da Ponte

Happy New Year! In hopes that 2021 will be far more promising than its predecessor, I thought it would be a great idea to start the year by announcing an anticipated project.  

In September, I made inquiries to Sunbury, Pennsylvania concerning former resident Lorenzo Da Ponte. Between 1805 and 1838, he lived in Sunbury for seven years (1811-1818) and in New York City the remaining years. Too few realize that the Italian poet and librettist, best known for collaborating with Mozart on three of his greatest operas (Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte) traversed the Atlantic to live the last three decades of his life in the United States. 

Read my 2020 article: Building Recognition for Lorenzo Da Ponte's American Legacy.

Working alongside Da Ponte's great-great-great-great grandson Clay Alder and family has been one of my most treasured professional honors. And this is a part of that continuing effort. With New York City being the primary focus of Da Ponte's stateside biography, I've been keen to gauge Sunbury's interest in creating more awareness of his local story. On a personal note, Da Ponte's connection to the Keystone State is all the more special to me given that I'm a native of the neighboring state of Ohio. You can't imagine my reaction when I discovered that Mozart's librettist once lived across the border! 

In addition to receiving locally sourced material from Northumberland County Historical Society's President Cindy Inkrote, I couldn't have imagined a better response from City Administrator Jody Ocker: "So very pleased to hear from you! The timing couldn't be more serendipitous..." She said that they were in the early stages of planning Sunbury's 250th anniversary celebration in 2022 and thought it would be a wonderful idea to include Da Ponte in the festivities. We corresponded earlier this month and the planning committee will meet again soon.

And perhaps as another fortuitous sign, last month I was invited by my friend and colleague Greta Di Raimondo to join the Associazione Mozart Italia - Sede di Venezia (Mozart Italy Association - Venice) as a member of their international team! Greta was recently installed as their President and represents the exciting future of the organization. Indeed, this is a timely gift from the city of Da Ponte's birth. To have AMI's partnership and support will most certainly strengthen future initiatives concerning their native son in his adopted country. 



Joe Maleno said...

Hello Sherry Davis.

I was stunned to learn of Da Ponte’s relocation to America and, in particular, his time spent in my native Philadelphia. This story interests me on several fronts: my maternal grandmother and her brothers and sisters were natives of nearby Shamokin, a city I visited many times as a child, and more recently, just days ago on June 26, 2021; I am a music educator in Bergen County, New Jersey having majored in piano at West Chester University (1992) and hold the Master’s Degree in music education from Temple University (2004); I play Mozart’s piano sonatas regularly; I enjoy teaching my students about the American travels of other composers such as Dvorak, Saint-Saenes, and Tchaikovsky.

I can’t believe I hadn’t heard anything about Da Ponte’s American experience during my studies, particularly that he had lived in my home town of Philadelphia! My recent visit to Shamokin prompted me to read more about that city, Northumberland County and its county seat. I thank Wikipedia’s Sunbury article which, in turn, led me to your blog. I appreciate the work you are doing to raise awareness of this local association with Mozart’s librettist. I hope to attend events in 2022 for Sunbury’s semi-quincentennial.

Joe Maleno

Sherry Davis said...

Thank you, Joe, for visiting The Chronicles and leaving this lovely comment! I actually wasn't aware that my article was referenced in the town's Wiki entry, so I appreciate the tip. I'm ecstatic to learn of its distribution via other platforms. I'm curious about your curriculum concerning the American travels of great composers. Are you aware of the historical markers, landmarks, artifacts and such associated with their journeys? Again, thank you!

Joe Maleno said...

Hi Sherry.
The Sunbury wiki article didn’t reference your article. I found Lorenzo under “Notable Residents’, googled “Lorenzo Da Ponte Sunbury’ and then come across your blog.

Each May since 2001, I take my 3rd grade classes to perform on recorders and sing in the Link Up concerts at Carnegie Hall. You may know that none other than Tchaikovsky was invited to travel to NYC, staying for 3 weeks, to conduct the very first series of concerts ever Andrew Carnegie’s new “Music Hall.”. He also performed on piano. Can you I imagine? I found an article you are sure to enjoy. See link below.


I also talk about Dvorak’s visit to America. He stayed for 3 years and even ventured to Iowa. His house in NYC was torn down in 1991. See links below.


After Tchaikovsky and Dvorak, other European composers like Saint-Seans, Mahler and Prokofiev made the trek to the new world.
Of course, as travel become easier in the 20th century, many, many more followed, some relocating permanently to escape turmoil in the own countries.

I always thought Tchaikovsky was the earliest European composer to travel to the New World. It’s hard to imagine Da Ponte, 86 years earlier, coming from such an illustrious career in Europe to Sunbury, PA to open a grocery store. Of course he later had much success in New York.

This has been so much fun!!!! Perhaps I will see you in 2022 for Sunbury’s Sesquicentennial.

Sherry Davis said...

Thank you for sharing this information, Joe! It's wonderful to connect with another music professional who has an interest in this subject. Let's stay in touch and hope for a meeting in Sunbury next year. Take care!

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